Like most love affairs, my relationship with yoga has had its highs and lows.
Most of the time, they come from out of the blue or when I am least expecting them.
About a month ago, following a brief and unexpected hiatus, I attended Mysore for four mornings in a row. My body felt good, my mind felt good, and I felt prepared for anything. This feeling continued for a few weeks.
First, the mental high left me. Then my body became unusually stiff. Morning practice was now a burden rather than a reward. Also, the voice in my head telling me that that I was never going to advance, a voice which was always present even on the best of days, was now at a fever pitch.
While the rational part of me said that this was just a phase that would eventually pass, neither my body nor my mind wanted to practice.
Unlike other times this has happened, I decided not to take a break and I stuck to the practice. It took a while, about two weeks, but eventually I got back into the groove.
The experience made me reconsider my previous belief that the best way to deal with yoga burn out was to take a break, especially since this latest one came very soon after I had taken a break and resumed a steady practice again.
My theory is that the high that I obtained so soon after resuming my regular practice invariably set me up for the low that followed.
In my experience, nothing can maintain that high.
Just like yoga is all about following the middle path, maintaining a consistent practice seems to be the key to avoiding these highs and lows and allowed me to continue on my yoga path.
The things that helped me the most during this most recent drag are as follows:
1. Keep practicing but feel free to modify.
This is important especially if your body feels off. Continuing with the practice does not have to mean practicing exactly as you have been.
2. Try mixing it up.
If you practice at home, this is pretty easy. Even if you practice a set practice like the Ashtanga primary or secondary series, there is no set rule that you can throw in a few poses that aren’t part of it. However, even in led classes, it’s possible to throw in some variety. Try going to a different teacher and/or practicing at a different time of day.
3. Focus on the positive, even if it is just celebrating the fact that you got through practice.
Now is not the time to be focusing on what you cannot do. If frustrations about this arise during practice, then see if you can take a minute or two to acknowledge them and let them pass.
In my case, asking myself how, realistically, my life would improve if I mastered certain poses helped me to put things in perspective.
Another thing that helped was imagining that each yoga class was the last I would ever take—this helped me to appreciate things as well.
The highs and lows that come with yoga are a natural part of any long-term practice. At times, even die-hard yogis sometimes feel like throwing in the towel. And while it may be a good idea to take a break from practice, especially in the case of an injury, there are reasons to persevere and continue to practice through a low point.
In many ways, I see my yoga practice as a metaphor for life.
Just like life isn’t suppose to be only about the positive aspects, neither is yoga. Sometimes the lows can even be a good opportunity to check in with oneself and reflect on what is going on, not just on the mat, but off it as well. It may even be a blessing of sorts in retrospect.
Just keep in mind that like all things, this, too, will pass and before you know it, you’ll return to that familiar feeling of balance.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman